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on 7 August 2016
If you love, or would like to learn to love, the ancient traditions that are falling into the forgotten; The Morville Hours lays them out for us. Our lives are seen today as directional, as movies with a narrative of building, or prevailing, or discovery; but in older times we saw our lives more in harmony with the cycles of nature: astronomical, seasonal, and any narrative was overlaid onto the horticultural and religious cycles which were themselves overlaid onto prehistoric foundations.
The Morville Hours is an ambitious effort to invite us into that world view; heavily researched and stuffed, packed, full of scraps and nuggets from all the disciplines of nature and science and religion; to make a vast mosaic out of these scraps and form a big picture, or a map, with which the author finds her way, resolving her own questions of life.
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This is one of my mother's favourite books. I usually like what she likes, so was keen to read it. My mum reads bits of it, dipping in here and there and coming back to favourite parts all the time. I read it all in one go. To be honest I think it is better read in sections, like my mum does. It is actually several stories, the history of her house and the surrounding area, the history of the making of her garden, the history of her family, all held together by the rhythms of the ecclesiastical day. I enjoyed each bit of her story, but not all smushed up together. Her writing style is beautiful and her take on what she writes about fresh, and interesting, but it did get very fragmented at times and I found myself wishing she could just stick to a narrative for a little longer before abandoning it and moving on to something else. I did enjoy it, but not as much as I'd hoped, and not in the way I had hoped.
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VINE VOICEon 14 May 2010
Gardens and gardening have never been more popular. Perhaps it's because a garden represents the ultimate reality check in our twenty-four-seven, centrally heated, air conditioned, just-in-time world.

When Katherine Swift takes on the challenge of creating a garden for a National Trust Property, she finds inspiration in medieval books of hours and their framework for daily life (the monastic hours of work, study and prayer) lived within the wider context of the annual liturgical and agricultural cycle.

The garden she creates reflects both space and time. The geology, soil and weather dictate what can and cannot be grown and what tasks are appropriate to the season. It reflects, too, the history of the place: the monastic cloister garden, the formal Elizabethan knot garden. The book, like the garden it describes, is deeply personal. Katherine Swift meditates on the geology of Wenlock Edge, wonders what moles dream of, reflects on the hardships of rural life (she is no sentimentalist) and ponders on her own family's far from idyllic history.

Although "The Morville Hours" will appeal to gardeners and garden lovers, it isn't a book about gardening - it's about the way in which gardens reconnect us with the bigger picture.
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on 21 February 2014
This writer is unusual in that she is not only extremely well-read but uses her knowledge appropriately to highlight her thoughts, of which there are many original ones. She is not trying to sound grand, she is full of wonder and this is the greatest charm of the book - her unbounded delight in everything that grows. So everything she knows and observes is to the glory of all nature around her. Add to this the meticulous nature of a former librarian and you see that she researches everything painstakingly and very thoroughly. Her writing ranges from the informative - Latin names of all the plants quoted - to the beautiful, imaginative and poetic. This is not just another gardener's book. It is a profound description of one person's experience of life.
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on 7 September 2013
I read this book for book club and found it very easy to read whilst on holiday when I had plenty of time. It is quite detailed and full of interesting snippets. I am not particularly botanically minded but was still able to appreciate her descriptions of the various plants she was using. I now long to go and look at the garden itself so may have to make a journey from Somerset to Shropshire. Perhaps we will arrange a 'book club' outing!
Not exactly a novel but certainly most beautifully written with some very evocative descriptions of her surroundings and the making of the garden.
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on 23 August 2017
Not quite what I had imagined but very interesting. I intend to read it again as
the friends who borrowed it said they had enjoyed it. Maybe I'm missing something!
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on 15 March 2013
Katherine Swift arrived at the Dower House in Morville, Shropshire, in 1988, and set about creating a garden from scratch that would reflect all the people who had lived there throughout the previous centuries. The book she has written about this process is every bit as beautiful and full of life as the garden she made - it is a thing of intense joy, that I could hardly bear to finish.

Katherine has set it out in the form of a book of hours, taking us through the structure of the day as written in these liturgical texts, and then spiralling out to encompass the months, the years and the geographical and social history of a place she has clearly come to love. And through it all she has woven a compelling and poignant account of her own family background, the events that shaped her, and the way in which the garden healed her as it took form.

The writing is sublime, and the richness of description and characterisation (both human, feline and otherwise) draw you deep into her beautiful realm so that coming to the end is a little heartbreaking. Katherine is as adept at the micro as the macro, taking her reader from the glacial formation of the landscape to the interior of a flower with exquisite finesse. The scents and sounds and earthy anchor of her garden are a joy to live with through her eyes and pen.

I have already given this book to three friends, and there will be many more. Thank you Katherine, for a joyous read.
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on 2 April 2017
Some beautiful atmospheric description and a host of esoteric facts all twined together like Clematis Montana (excuse the gardening simile).
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on 4 March 2018
Superb - a really enjoyable read, as well as lots of ideas for the garden.
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on 1 October 2017
as described and promptly sent
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